Pixley is increasingly conscious of the need to grow plants which reduce the need for direct control of pests and diseases and require only judicious use of fertiliser.
The result of less synthetic treatments at Pixley is a beneficial increase in ants, as evidenced by increased numbers of Green Woodpeckers. The ants like to 'farm' a 'stem' aphid which they protect from predators such as ladybirds, of which numbers have increased. This creates an interesting ecology of all three, together with the honeydew of the aphids, so loved by the ants.
On the headlands nettles and other things are allowed to prosper encouraging a natural habitat for butterflies, moths and their larvae. The vapourer moth is quite special. We will not spray against it. The little fellows turn into quite spectacular caterpillars. The Comma butterfly loves to feed on blackcurrants and nettles.
Recently Pixley enjoyed an army of frogs and toads. This indicates that Pixley's reservoirs are clean and free from fertiliser. All signs of our keenness to let nature reassert its balance - but it can be nerve-jangling!
All berries are produced under Assured Produce guidelines with defined policies in place addressing the many issues of the countryside, bio-diversity and food standards.
Pixley Berries is proud of its rural heritage and shares it with many of its neighbours.
We enjoy several hectares of ancient woodland, a number of old coppices and old orchards. We abound with old hedgerows of mature trees, oak, ash, thorn, cherry, field maple, willow and alder, and wild rose too.
Notably, bio-diversity includes barn owls, dormice, otters, green woodpeckers, buzzards, bats and tadpoles. And we have a great collection of beetles from our hopyards, collected by Dr Colin Campbell of East Malling Research.
Berry growers greatest friends.... bumblebees, ladybirds, lacewings, beetles, typhs, soldier beetles, spiders and many others. Did you know there are at least 7 types of ladybird, red, yellow, brown and black, from 1 to 6 mm long? And their larvae are even more voracious feeders than the adults.
Our favourite time of year, May. Fresh green everywhere and apples and sloe in blossom. Bees and bumble bees at work in the berry fields. And the birds busy breeding.
Pixley Berries fruit growing sites are carefully chosen for soil, aspect, height above sea level and surrounding environmental features such as hedgerows and woodland reservoirs of insects and the natural ecology.
Important features include frost drainage and height above sea level to improve winter chilling and to extend the harvest in Summer. Air movement is important so we look for a compromise between shelter and exposure. Our blackcurrants particularly enjoy our deep rich silty clay loams associated with the old hop growing areas of Herefordshire, providing good reserves of moisture and nutrients during our drier summers.